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Hendrik Potgieter, Voortrekker Leader, South Africa.
Andries Hendrik Potgieter (1792-1852) was born the second child of Petronella and Hermanus Potgieter in the Tarkastad district. He became a wealthy sheep farmer and fought in the Fourth and Fifth Frontier Wars. However, like many Boers, he decided to leave the Cape. Delayed by the Sixth Frontier War, they left in 1835. Their spiritual leader, Sarel Cilliers, later joined Potgieter's trek.
His party trekked into the Free State, where they signed a treaty with Moroka, leader of the Barolong which stipulated that Potgieter would protect the Baralong against Matabele raiders in exchange for land between the Vet and Vaal Rivers.
The Matabele leader, Mzilikazi, felt threatened by white incursions into his sphere of influence, which led to an attack on Potgieter’s laager in 1836 at Vegkop near Heilbron. The attack was beaten off but the Matabele made off with most of their trek oxen. Piet Retief and Gerrit Maritz came to Potgieter's rescue and Moroka helped with oxen. His group joined Retief and Maritz at Thaba Nchu where they decided to move to Natal. Potgieter was not in favour of the plan and remained in the Free State.
In 1838, after Piet Retief and his party were murdered by Dingane and other parties were attacked at the Bloukrans and Bushmen's Rivers, Potgieter and Pieter Uys assembled a military force. To prevent schism and discord, the new leader (Maritz) pronounced that both Uys and Potgieter were to be in command. However, a struggle between Uys and Potgieter ensued. The divided force was lured into an ambush by the Zulu at Italeni. Both Uys and his son Dirkie were killed and the surrounded and outnumbered force fled. Potgieter was accused of deliberately leading the force into an ambush and his commando was called the Vlugkommando.
His party moved into the Transvaal where he went on to found Potchefstroom. He served as head of state from 1840-1845. In 1845 he founded Ohrigstad (originally named Andries-Ohrigstad after Potgieter and George Ohrig) which had to be abandoned due to an outbreak of malaria. The inhabitants, including Potgieter, moved to the Soutpansberg where he founded Soutpansbergdorp (Salt Pan Mountain Town) that was later renamed Schoemansdal.
After the 1842 annexation of Natal by Britain, many trekkers moved to the Free State and Transvaal. The newcomers and their leader, Andries Pretorius, refused to accept Potgieter’s authority and a power struggle developed. War was averted and a peace treaty was signed in Rustenburg in 1848. Potgieter died in Schoemansdal in 1852. A number of African chiefs who held him in high regard paid their respects before he died. RSAHP
1779/1%Last update: 2014-05-14 16:53
Author: Alan McIver
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